On child prodigies

Confession: I have edited and re-edited the draft for this post multiple times with a view to make it gentler, but instead, it comes out bolder and more passionate each time. I will stop now before it gets worse!

I guess I need to admit I care about the issue more than I thought… and risk looking like a fool. Here I stand upon my soapbox.


I’ve been listening to Jackie Evancho a lot lately, enjoying her lovely soaring mature voice, startling from such a little body.

I’ve been listening, and feeling an unexpected sense of rising distress.

Can you tell me what her parents and coaches are thinking, giving a nine and ten-year-old songs like Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, Music of the Night, and My Heart Will Go On at a time of her life when she should still be singing Jesus Loves Me? When did it become okay to teach a child to sing to us of sensuality?

I wince as I watch her, still wholesome and sweet, but changing–her mannerisms more affected, her body dolled up. Who could be unchanged by such a flood of praise and popularity?

I wonder if this is the kind of child trafficking we condone in America? Are we so willing to sacrifice the innocence of young performers as to set them awash and drunken with praise and expect them to keep their heads, to maintain their charming simplicity? Are we so eager to place adolescents in the position of sensuous adults that we cannot see the trajectory? Have we learned nothing from the Elizabeth Taylors, the Lindsay Lohans, the Charlotte Churches? Can we not predict the troubled lives, the wake of broken relationships once our carefully-groomed prodigies are all grown up, once they’re hurting and angry and robbed of everything good?

How is this not child exploitation?

We offer fame and money; we steal purity and unselfconsciousness.

We promise Jackie she can become a celebrity, and fail to tell her she can no longer be a child.

I mean hey, it makes money.

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10 years ago

I actually thought you were talking about Miley at first…. But you are right. They are sweet little girls/boys, and we praise them and they can do nothing wrong, and then…..
If a child has a great talent, nurture it and protect it. Someday the rose will bloom with more beauty than today’s poor stars will ever have.

10 years ago

Well…I posted my blog and then read this. Looks like we were both struggling to nicely say the things on our hearts. I still haven’t gotten mine written. I’m jealous that you got yours out so graciously and well put. 🙂 I agree with your distress! ‘Child trafficking’ is not too strong of a term!

10 years ago

Well said!

10 years ago


10 years ago

Your words are right and good. I back you up all the way.

10 years ago

Well, we have good intentions, or at least benign ones. We’re amazed at their talents and enjoy their performances, and so we pour wealth into their laps and demand they dance for us. And they do.

The “coming of age” for many child stars requires a shocking demonstration that they are no longer the sweet, innocent Disney stars we once knew… or thought we knew. That way they can be taken seriously as Mature Artists Formerly Known as (Disney) Princesses.

We have known this for years. If you wanna be a big star and get noticed, you have to go big. Supernova. In fact, a cosmic event in which a star explodes messily with unfortunate results to itself.

“Are you not entertained?” Yes, we are. We are the mob.

Sharon Yoder
10 years ago

To steal childhood innocence is a tragedy. Well said, Shari.

10 years ago

I’m going to agree with you . . . and maybe lightly disagree with you. While I’m definitely agreeing that this is wrong . . . and that is harming children, and that we should have no part in it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the longer I am involved in orphan awareness/adoption etc. my path crosses with those who work with kids who are literally trafficked. And it’s awful. It’s ugly. It’s way worse than Miley Cyrus and whoever else has been ruined by being a child star. WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY worse. So I get worried that if we call this “child trafficking” that maybe we are weakening how fearful, horrible, and terrible true child trafficking is. Does that make sense? I DO see where you are coming from, but in my mind it’s sort of like saying that giving a kid a single swat lightly with your hand because they just ran out in front of a car and were nearly hit, and taking a plumbing line and whipping a kid till they die because they won’t pronounce a word “correctly’ is all “child abuse”. There are maybe people who would say that both are child abuse, but to me, it weakens the term to call them both the same thing. You can feel free to ignore my opinion, cause that’s all it is. But maybe the root–using the children for others gratification– is all the same, and so the term is applicable to all of it. But I’m really passionate about child trafficking; it’s hard for me to get quite so passionate about this Americanized child idolatry.And if that is wrong on my part, then I hope God forgives me and opens my eyes.

10 years ago

I am passionate about this too!

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